"Behold the Lamb of God!" This is the introduction that John the Baptist gave Jesus at the very beginning of His ministry. At that time, this prophetic word would have little meaning, although the concept of the sacrificial lamb goes back to the very beginning of God's relationship with His people. Abel was killed by his brother Cain, who was jealous that Abel offered a perfect lamb. The legal demands of this perfection grew to the point, by the time of Jesus, that the Temple establishment raised sheep for sacrifice, and interpreted the law in such a way that only their animals met the standard. And it didn't matter that the people were denied the priviledge of bringing the best of their own flocks. Jesus knew better than anyone how this offering was supposed to work, and how it exploited the letter of the law into power and profits for those who were supposed to be servants of the God and His Temple. We see His response in John 2:12-22, where it sets the stage for His continuing confrontation with those who saw Him shaking the foundations of their world.
The truth is that we cannot be perfect, and no creature of this fallen world will ever be good enough to bring us into the presence of God. The One who called Himself the Good Shepherd of a fallible and imperfect flock of people became the perfect Lamb to be sacrificed in our place. At that moment, we are told, the Veil in the Temple that hung between the Holiest part of the Temple and ordinary people was ripped from top to bottom. Within 40 years, the Temple itself was destroyed, and the animal sacrifices were obsolete.
We often think of death as an ending. In this case, it was the beginning of a whole new relationship between God and His people. This Lamb didn't stay dead!
On the morning that we celebrate this weekend, the tomb was opened and Jesus, the Eternal Lamb, came out alive! Those who saw Him were never the same. We know that death is not the end; that if we choose to open our lives to Him and follow Him, He will lead us, like the perfect Shepherd, to the greenest pastures, clearest water, and above all, the eternal presence of our Creator and Lord.